Archive for December, 2010

There were 6 seed catalogs in the mail yesterday – can you believe it?  6 of them!!!  And each one chock full of every new weird and wonderful garden seed you can imagine.  There are peppers every color of the rainbow, gourds that look like snakes and my all time favorite – pumpkins the size of Volkswagens!  And Sweet Corn – did I mention I love Sweet Corn?  And tomatoes, and peas, and squash, and lettuce, and cucumbers, and beets, and turnips, and onions, and beans, and eggplant, and okra which I don’t know how to cook but I grow anyway just because of the beautiful flowers.  I love seed catalogs – know why?

Is it because I love to garden?  No.

Is it because I love the smell of black dirt in the morning?  No.

Is it because this year I know my garden will look like the International Peace Gardens and weeds will not dare to sprout beneath my feet? 

 No.  I’m pretty sure that won’t happen.

Is it because there were 6 seed catalogs and no bills  in the mailbox so I’m secretly wondering if we got someone elses mail instead of our own? 

No, No, NO!!!  It’s because…  It has to be…  It must be my favorite time of year – its spring!!!

Time to dust off and crank up the Troy Built Workhorse rototiller.  Time to clean all the stuff out of the garden shed and lay down the soaker hoses.  Time to stop at every greenhouse at every department store I see.  Time for green grass and tiny spring flowers and flowering bulbs bursting forth from the rich, black soil of the front flowerbed.  Time for baby skunks to be born under the porch step (hey, it happens) and butterflies to flutter passed the windows.  Time for baby calves to fill the pastures and frolic in the wildflowers.

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz – I wonder where the birdies is???

How come I didn’t see it coming.  Spring really snuck up on me this year.  Ha!  I have been busy what with work and all.  Why, it seems like just last week it was Christmas but the seed catalogs are here and that’s enough proof for me.  You know how fast time flies.  You turn around and the whole year has zipped past.  Yep, I’m sure that’s what happened.  I just wasn’t paying attention.  Oh, I hear your sighs of doubt – clear out here in SD I hear them.  You don’t believe in the power of the seed catalog to predict the coming of spring. 

Oh yee of little faith.

No really, it must be.  Seed companies wouldn’t lie, not to me. I’m one of their best customers.  They’ve been in business for hundreds of years – they know things that your every day ‘hoe-hum’ gardener doesn’t.   They are the holy grail of the soil and compost world.  They wouldn’t lead me on by sending me glossy catalogs filled with full-color, close up shots of flowers that are so beautiful you can almost smell them if it wasn’t time to garden.  Would they? 

Would they???

That would be rude, crude and socially unacceptable.

But just to satisfy you and not because I don’t trust them, I will go to the window and check it out –  just to make you happy…


 Oh dear…  It doesn’t look to good to the East.

To the North?  Well, there’s my garden tractor getting buried with snow.

West?  The greenhouse is just a shell of its former self.  How about South?


It’s not looking good here either.  And what about the front flowerbed?


So much for the tiny spring flowers and bulbs bursting forth from the rich, black soil.

Seed companies – you should be ashamed of yourselves!


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Occasionally I come across quotes that are so worthy – so enlightening –  sooooooo profound that I have the uncontrollable urge to share this wisdom with all of mankind, thereby making the world a better place.

Hey, I do what I can.

The first quote I would like to share was spoken to me by a favorite family friend named Trapper.

The year was 1989.  My husband and I had just brought home our newborn son and Trapper, being a good friend, came to pay homage to the new heir of the family empire. 

Standing there, holding the joy of our lives in his strong, capable and calloused hands Trapper looked down into the face of innocence. 

I gazed on, wrapped in the golden glow of the miracle of life and suddenly at peace with the world. 

 Our precious baby boy was mesmerized by this man and he smiled up into the weathered face of the stranger, cooing in delight as he promptly

 ‘broke wind’ and filled his tiny diaper.

I doubt that I will ever see Trapper at a loss for words and this was no exception.  Somehow he always knows the perfect response to any situation (although his wife would probably disagree). 

Like a divine prophecy dropped from the heavens above, these are the words he spoke:

“A farting horse will never tire,  And a farting man’s the man to hire.”

Now let me begin by saying Trapper is a cowboy.  From the crown of his 30X beaver hat to the tips of his high-topped, hand-stitched, pointy-toed boots, he was born a cowboy and will always be a cowboy and I truly believe that someday someone will find his cold, dead carcass still upright in the saddle, refusing to fall off a horse even in death. 

Now some people might have been appalled at these words.  Some may have been insulted, but coming from a man like Trapper I knew this was high praise and when he said his goodbyes I ran for the baby book and quickly jotted down this profound quote, immortalizing the words for all time.

So the next time your trapped in an awkward situation and at a loss for words, just remember this simple quote and you will be forever known as the fascinating, witty life of the party, just like our buddy Trapper.

This isn’t Trapper but it is one of my favorite photos of DJ and his Great Grandfather Russell who farmed and ranched in South Dakota most of his life. 

Miss you Grandpa!


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Technically, we live in a region known as high-plains arid desert.

Honest, I read it somewhere.

Some years we dream of rain… 

Some years we beg for rain…

And on the rare occasion that the skies open up and it does rain,

we dance naked in the front yard!!!

Not really – but you never know when the mood might strike you.

 Our grasses grow short but they are full of nutrients and even though it doesn’t look lush like this very often – cattle and horses are able to grow fat at our ranch.

Mostly, we live in a dry, dry place.

And with that in mind I would like to show you the following photos of our sons’ old Ranger pickup. 

These images may be disturbing to some so please proceed with caution.

Only my baby could find a puddle this size around here.

Such a sad, sad truck.

And what’s with that bone in the water?   It looks like a cow bone.

Bossy, is that you?

If he’s not driving through mud in his pickup

he’s tearing through it on his dirt bike.

My baby loves mud…

He lives for it.

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This is Maggie. 

Maggie is a good horse.  She is the kind of horse we call a ‘babysitter’.

And Maggie is worth her weight in gold.

We bought Maggie about 11 years ago for our youngest son, Morgan, when he was 8 years old.

Maggie has put up with a lot (to say the least).

Maggie more than paid for herself the first time we took her for a ride.  It was a beautiful evening as we trailed through the hills, following the valleys behind our house.  My baby had been on horseback before but had never had a horse of his own so we kept it slow and easy.   As we rode, we surprised a couple of bull elk who watched us for a moment before disappearing into the timber.  It had been a good summer and the grass was high and thick so when Maggie suddenly stopped in her tracks I wasn’t sure what the problem was.  Even though the small boy on her back kicked and cussed she stood perfectly still, refusing to move.  So I stepped off my horse and walked over to see what was wrong.  I was amazed to find that all 4 of her feet were tangled in a twisted piece of woven wire. 

Most horses would have shieded, some would have blown up but Maggie calmly stood there as I untangled her, letting me pick up her feet one at a time she waited patiently for me to pull the wire from the tall grass. 

As I lead her away I hugged her neck, scratched her ears and thanked her for taking care of my baby.  When we got back to the house Maggie got an extra ration of oats. 

It’s a rare gift to find a horse you can trust like that.

Maggie has always taken care of my babies.  She loves kids, women and oatmeal cookies but doesn’t really like to carry heavy men unless she has to.  She allows kids to crawl under her belly or slide off the back of her rump and will load herself into a horse trailer if you leave the door open, but don’t ever ride a horse too close behind her as she will sometimes kick. 

Here’s Maggie and her favorite kid all grown up.

Maggie likes to work calves.

She doesn’t mind when the rope hits her.

And she’s good at her job. 

She even looks pretty spiffy for her age.

She even goes to the mountains hunting.

Got elk?

You just got to love a good horse!

And we love this one – she’s our little Mag-pie.




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I love to go to the South Dakota State Capital building at Christmas!

Every year, from mid November till the end of December our capital is decked out with over 100  decorated Christmas trees.

And  the best part is that anyone can decorate a tree!  You just have to fill out an application.

Our state capital is in Pierre – pretty much, smack-dab in the middle of the state.

The trees (no artificial ones are allowed) and the lights are supplied by the State.  They are set up and ready to decorate when you arrive.

Each tree is decorated by a different club, organization, buisness, family, farm or ranch.

Some have specific themes and most have wonderful hand-made ornaments. 

Some of my favorite trees have been the ones decorated by local farms and ranches who are celebrating over 100 years.

The largest tree in the rotunda of the Capital is between 25 and 30 feet tall.  Last year it was decorated by the South Dakota Florist’s Association. 

Here’s my sister, the florist – one of many who helped decorate it.

I have never been there for the decorating but I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun.

I usually show up after its been transformed into a winter wonderland (when the work is done – Hee Hee!).

All season they have different events and a variety of entertainment – especially on the weekends.  They have choirs and vocalists and if you get there on the right day the Governor himself will serve you a piece of pie. 

Unfortunately, I have never made it for pie day – maybe next year.

Of course, I love old capital buildings anyway.  The marble pillars and stained glass are impressive.

And I love the floors of our capital building.  I don’t know how they make them but I love it!!!  I want these floors in my house.

I didn’t make it to this years display – these photos are from 2009 but I’m sure this year was just as beautiful.

I don’t know if other states do this but check it out and if they don’t I’d like to invite you to South Dakota. 

The Pierre Chamber of Commerce has information about the displays on their website.


Hope to see you there.

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When it comes to Christmas Eve, our family has several  traditions.

Growing up, Christmas Eve was always the night we would travel (OK – it was only 1/4 of a mile) over the river and through the woods (OK – there was one culvert and a tree strip) to Grandmother’s (and Grandfather’s) house we’d go.  This was the night my brother and sister and I had waited for all year.  This was the night we would get to open our presents.  

Now don’t get me wrong, our family wasn’t wealthy.  Far from it.  We didn’t get huge mountains of extravagant gifts but we never went without.  In fact Christmas was always the best time of the year because early winter was when the money came in.  Calves were sold and the neighbor who rented some of our land always paid at the end of the season so Christmas was the one time of year when we actually had real cash money in the bank.

Christmas Eve has always been filled with traditions.  My Dad’s side of the family would all go to Grandma & Grandpa’s house.  Grandma Lulu would cook a big meal and we would eat on her pink depression glass dishes.  Oh how I loved those dishes!  We would eat everything from prime rib to sloppy joes on those dishes and when people would comment on them Grandma would just smile and say “Oh, they’re nothing fancy – they just came in with the flour we bought”. 

After supper we would have to wash the dishes.  It took fooooooooorevvvvvvvvvvver!!!  I was sure we washed, dried and put away every single pot, pan, glass and dish Grandma had in her whole kitchen.  It was kind of like spring cleaning in the dead of winter.

When the kitchen was finally in order we would find a comfy spot in the living room and listen as Grandma read the Christmas story from the Bible.  I can still hear her voice and picture her, sitting in the corner near the huge Christmas cactus which was always covered with bright pink blossoms.  Grandma always did have a way with plants.

If we were lucky, Grandma only read the Christmas story.  But some years she would decide to read some (or all) of the Christmas cards and letters they had received.  What torture for small children!  I’m sure Grandma didn’t mean it that way.  She was a good, Christian farm wife who didn’t have a mean bone in her short little, arthritic body but I’ve always wondered if she didn’t secretly enjoy watching the kids squirm as she carefully read each letter, always taking the time to remind us which long forgotten friend or distant family relation had written it.

After every last card and letter was read and all the kids began to edge toward the pile of gifts my father (who incidentally always wore the same red, black and white Christmas sweater) would announce “I guess it’s time to go home now”.  He definitely had a mean streak! 

Everyone would laugh and at last, it was time to pass out gifts and rip our way through the wrapping paper.

The gifts were mostly practical with a few fun and frivolous ones thrown in.  Some years we had unusual gifts that would forever burn that particular year into our memories like the year Grandma sewed ties for all the guys.  The home movies Uncle Don took that year clearly shows every man in the room sporting the same wild tie over sweaters, shirts and even Grandpa’s bib overalls.  It was great! 

And then there was the year I gave my brother a pool cue.  It was cool – it came in it’s own case and had 3 sections that screwed together.  He loved it but ended up giving it to Grandpa because he had held it all evening and obviously wanted it more than anything in the world.  That was a good year.

Even though the gifts changed as we grew there was one tradition that we could count on like visits to the dentist and paying taxes to the IRS – the tradition of the ugly underwear.

We’re not sure where she found them…  Maybe she had a secret source that mailed them to her in plain brown wrappers…  Or a friend in the local department store who ordered them just for Aunt Korky.  We don’t know where they came from but they were there every year like the pink depression dishes.  Cleverly disguised with some wonderful gift like a box of hand-sewn Barbie doll clothes or the cutest little suitcases you ever saw – they were there.  Every year we received the wildest, most colorful and unusually printed underwear you have ever seen.  Thankfully, this gift was reserved only for the female cousins and my sister and myself.   I’m not sure what we would have thought if my brother had pulled out a pair of tye-dyed whitey-tighties.  Like the rising of the sun, there they were.   Every color of the rainbow condensed into a small pair of silk panties.  This was underwear to wear proudly.  Underwear that could turn any 8-year-old into a rebel without a cause – these were the ‘James Dean of undies’.  And a few select pairs of them will live on forever in the home movies we still watch.  They will haunt me till the day I die.

I don’t remember many of the gifts but I do remember the traditions that led up to them.  And thankfully the traditions continue. 

Grandma and Grandpa have passed on.  The farm has been split up and sold.  Now we go to my folk’s place and the tradition of reading the Christmas story has passed down through my mother who no longer is able to read it because of Alzheimer’s, to my sister and myself.  Thankfully, our children have grown up hearing the story every year that reminds us what the season is really about.  They too have endured the dreaded dish washing marathons and their Grandpa who still tells us its time to go home when it’s really time to open presents.  He still has a mean streak! 

And yes, the tradition of ugly underwear continues, only now we wear them on our heads for the annual Christmas photos.

And proudly display them even though we’re usually laughing so hard we can’t take a good picture to save our souls.

The traditions continue and this year we may have even added a new one or perhaps two.

 This will be known forevermore as the year my nephew brought his first batch of home-made beer.

And the year of the tape measures.

Perhaps this may  have added to what happened next – I wonder?

It started out innocently enough.  Dad purchased a 12 pack – a case of tape measures.

Within 5 seconds of passing them out this is what the livingroom looked like.

And it got worse.

As the evening went on records were set and broken:

Indoor Unassisted:  105″

Indoor Assisted – with up to 3 other tapes holding another one up:  139″

Outdoors Unassisted:  113″

We may have the making of a new Olympic sport.

Today they come to our house for Christmas dinner.

I hope they bring their tape measures!

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We had a little freezing rain in the night and now all roads in and out of town are closed!  My boss just called (I really love my boss)  and she said I don’t have to go to work. 

I just ran through the house screaming and doing cartwheels.  OK they’re not pretty cartwheels, but I try.  So lets see… what can I write about today?  How about Christmas?

Lest you think I don’t like Christmas here are photos of some of the decorations at our house this year. 

Here’s the big tree (12 foot) in the livingroom.  Notice the deer heads – yes, its true – we are rednecks.  And not only do we decorate with dead animals we also accessorize them – note the bowler hat.  Don’t laugh, Prancer looks rather dashing with that rankish tilt to his hat don’t you think?

Here’s the Kitchen tree.  It sits on top of the old cook stove that was in the house when we started remodeling.  This stove is just about the only thing we could salvage from the house.

Here’s a slightly blurry photo of the tree in the guest room – it’s covered in Santa’s. 

I feel I have to tell you something.  I have an addiction…  an addiction to Christmas ornaments.  Every year, all year long I have to get my ‘ornament fix’.  It doesn’t matter where I go, department stores, second-hand stores, pawn shops, yard sales, I find them everywhere.  It’s a terrible little family secret but I’ve decided it’s time to come clean.   We have boxes of ornaments in the basement and I can’t stop.  Especially at this time of year when they go on sale!  50% off!!!  Help me, please.  I came home with 37 more ornaments last night.  I’m so ashamed.  But I needed them – they had snowmen ornaments and we all know you can never have to many snowmen ornaments. 

See what I mean?

The snowman bathroom. 

Looks like frosty threw up in here doesn’t it?  And this is only the wall above the toilet.   I’m so ashamed I can’t even show you the rest of the room.  It makes me cold just to look at it.

Let’s go to the dining room.  Blue, silver and white – that’s the dining room.  A lot of these ornaments are hand-made lace.  I admit it – if I can’t find ornaments to buy I have to make them. 

I need a life.

Here’s the china cupboard and some of the nativity scenes I have. 

Did I mention I have an addiction?

And last, but not lease here’s the light fixture in the living room, dripping with snowflakes.  I love these snow flakes and they are so simple to make.  I rolled out white Sculpty clay (actually ran it through the pasta maker – I’m glad I finally found a use for that thing) then used snowflake cookie cutters to cut them out.  Bake them, hang them and you too can have a veritable blizzard in your house.

Someday we’ll talk about Snow Globes!!! 

Did I mention I have an addiction?

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We had a wedding at the ranch last August.  Our oldest son, Dalton married a wonderful girl – she’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s funny and she reminds me a lot of myself – Ha!.  But Dani really is the daughter I always wanted. 

We were a little concerned when they said they wanted to have the wedding at the ranch but we jumped in with both feet and threw one hell of a party.  Even though the house isn’t finished and the gardens were full of grasshoppers – nobody cared.   It was great!!!

Here’ Dani and her bridesmaids – aren’t they beautiful? 

And Dalton and his groomsmen.  They clean up pretty good too.

Brothers and sisters – My baby the Best Man, Dalton, Dani and Dani’s sister the Maid of Honor.

The Stearns family has ranched here for over 100 years so we tried to honor that heritage by including some of the things that have special meaning for us.  The old wagon was used by Dalton’s great grandfather to deliver mail.

The quilt hanging on the end of my garden shed was started by Dalton’s great grandmother, Mae.  His grandmother, Evelyn finished the embroidery and gave it to me to quilt.  The box on the end of the table was full of hankies from my mother-in-laws stash – some had come from her mother, her mother-in-law and who knows who else.  When people signed the guest book, they were encouraged to pick out a hankie to keep and to ‘catch their tears of joy’.

I just loved having a house full of women the week before the wedding.  I have lived in a house filled with men for so long that I had forgotten how much fun girls are.  These gals worked their butts off too helping us get ready.  They strung thousands of white lights, hauled hay bales to build the benches and helped with everything else that needed to be done.  And check out those boots – I love the red ones.  OK, I want to adopt them all! 

We built a special garden for the ceremony.  Dalton and Dani and our favorite neighbor, Paul set posts for the trellis and then we hauled rock…  WE HAULED A LOT OF ROCK.  After work, from April till August we picked and hauled rock from all over the ranch and built raised flower beds all around the 40X80 foot garden.  Did I mention we have rock?  WE HAVE  A LOT OF ROCK!  Dalton welded the cross of horsehoes for above the alter. 

That’s my sister reading the scriptures and having a hard time not crying.  And those groomsmen – pretty serious bunch.  Lighten up dudes – it’s not your wedding. 

This is Pastor Chuck he did the ceremony.  He also married Hubby and I – 25 years ago.  He’s retired now but when he found out the wedding was at the ranch his response was “I’m in!”  He’s a great guy – he hunts at the ranch every chance he gets and especailly likes to help us thin out the prairie dog population from time to time.

We had a friend cook a chuck-wagon feast for everyone.  And it was a feast!  Steaks, potatoes, salads and Grandma Stearns’ secret family recipe for baked beans.  It’s not a family get together unless you have Grandma’s beans.  Clayton and Rhonda cook the best steaks I have ever eaten. 

And then we danced…

and danced some more. 

We danced till our feet hurt and stars filled the sky.  It was a perfect evening.  We’ve decided – one of the best things we ever did for our two boys was to teach them to dance.  Dance lessons for Boy Scouts – I’ll have to tell you about it sometime.

What a beautiful pair of stargazers.

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Coming home from work last night I had to stop and take some photos.

Check out that moon!  It was as big and beautiful as it could be. 

It looked good above the rocky ridge.

And it looked even better shining through the trees.  It lit up the countryside like a giant night-light and the snow reflected every bit of light.  I really didn’t need my headlights but I left them on anyway.  Around here people tend to think you’re a little strange or stealing cattle if you drive around with your lights off and I’d really hate to get shot for taking a few pictures! 

That would tend to ruin my evening.

Don’t you just love new tracks in the snow?  I made the first tracks in the morning and the neighbors added to them all day.  We only have 4 inches of snow on the ground but it’s wonderful powdery fluff.  Thank goodness there’s no wind or it would be in Nebraska by morning.

When I was in grade school, my parents purchased land in the Black Hills.  Where I grew up in the eastern end of the state, there were very few trees and the only thing to stop the wind was a barb wire fence so needless to say, we were amazed at the way it snowed in the mountains – most of the time it falls straight down!!!  I know that may not sound like much to some people but to a kid who was born and raised on the prairie that’s just short of being a miracle straight from Heaven above.  In fact, my Dad was so impressed after seeing the first snowfall that he went out with the tape measure to see how much was stacked on top of the fence post – 8 inches!!!  In eastern SD, snow is usually stuck to the side of the post or compacted into a drifts so dense that cattle walk over the tops of the fence and wander down the roads.  

The cows out here have to jump the fence if they want to walk down the roads.  Poor things.

There is a Native American proverb that says:

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.

Unfortunately, these pristine white tracks will not be my legacy.  That’s OK.  Next spring there will be deep, muddy tracks instead and I’m pretty sure that’s how I’ll be remembered, the one wallowing knee-deep in mud. 

 That’s a little more my style. 

But mud is at least 3 months away so for now I’ll just take more snow pictures.

I tried a few shots with very slow shutter speeds and got some interesting ‘moon tracks’. 

I call this one ‘Space Ship Boogy’

This one I call ‘Neon Moon’.

I’m not sure what these shots say about me other than I couldn’t hold a camera still to save my soul.  Maybe tomorrow night I’ll dig out the tripod before this great full moon disappears for another month.

Hope you’re enjoying the moon and all the Christmas lights!

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It’s cold…  There’s snow…  The wind blows and it’s even colder…  but the girls still need to be fed.

There goes my hubby.  Believe it or not, that’s my anniversary gift he’s driving.  It’s not every girl who gets a backhoe for her anniversary. 

Sorry girls – he’s taken.

Hubby loads up two large round bales – at just over 1000# each that’s a ton of hay.  No wonder our girls are so fat and sassy. 

(Don’t tell them I said that).

Come and get it!!! 

Here they come.  You can’t see it very well but those girls are moving fast.  They know, and love the sound of the backhoe.  They live for the sound of the backhoe. 

I said it before – I’ll say it again – I’m a lucky girl.  Just look at that cute little garden tractor my hubby got me.  Someday I’ll show you a picture of the big one – another anniversary gift.  Dare I say it again? 

I’m a lucky, lucky girl! 

You can haul compost on one end and till a new flower bed with the other (don’t laugh – we’ve done that).  And look – it’s my favorite color. 

I’m sure he did that on purpose.

Awwwwww… gardening with a backhoe.

But back to cattle – Dan hauls the hay out to the feed yard, which just happens to be on one of the fields today.  Once he drops the bales he uses the hoe to unroll them a bit so the girls don’t have to work so hard pulling them apart.

They’re so excited. 

“We just loove hay!!!” 

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